Smooth Newt

Lissotriton vulgaris

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The smooth newt is Northern Ireland's only native newt. It is small growing up to a maximum of 10 cm in length. In winter, smooth newts are a drab brown colour and people sometimes confuse them for lizards. Yet, if you look at a smooth newts belly it has an orange or yellow stripe with black spots. These spots are big on males, and small on females. In spring males have a wavy crest along their back and tail, and a bright orange belly.

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The Smooth Newt’s Year

Breeding – February to March

In March smooth newts come out of hibernation and look for ponds to breed in. When they find a pond, male smooth newts develop a wavy crest on their back and “dance” to impress females. Female newts then lay up to 200 eggs, folding each one into the leaves of a pond plant using their back legs. They do this to keep them safe from predators like dragonfly nymphs.

Hatching – April to June

Newt larvae hatch from eggs 2 to 4 weeks later and can stay in ponds for several months before leaving. Unlike frog tadpoles, newt larvae develop their front legs before their back legs. They breathe underwater through three pairs of feathery gills

Transition – June to July

From June, newt larvae absorb their gills and leave the breeding pond and begin life as newtlets on land. Adults hang about the pond a bit longer before leaving in July to spend the rest of the year on land. 

Land lubber – July to October

In late summer you can find newts in long grass, scrub or woodland under rocks, logs or piles of rubble. Newts only feed at night (they are nocturnal)   as it is cooler and there is less of a chance of predators eating them. In Autumn newts will prepare for hibernation by eat lots of food. 

Hibernation – November to January

Like other amphibians, smooth newts hibernate during winter months. They do this under logs, or in other nooks and crannies, until Spring when they seek out ponds to breed in.